Navy gains promise from spring But Mids still shy on experience COLLEGE FOOTBALL

April 22, 1993|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

It hasn't been a typical spring practice for Navy coach George Chaump. His expected starting quarterback, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, has been limited to throwing short passes. His best tight end has missed all of practice while recovering from shoulder surgery. And perhaps his most powerful running back is trying to come back after reconstructive knee surgery that forced him to miss last season.

Still, Chaump was in a jovial mood yesterday with spring practice in its final days heading into Saturday's Blue-Gold Game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. And he could afford to be happy: The start of the regular season is five months away, too early to worry about wins and losses.

Chaump again has spent a spring trying to mold a competitive team at an institution that hasn't had a winning football team since 1982. Chaump is entering his fourth year at Navy, and this could be the season that determines whether Chaump and the academy are a good match.

"I always feel pressure to win," said Chaump, who has a 7-26 record at Navy -- 1-10 each of the last two seasons. "I felt pressure three years ago, and I feel pressure this year."

Affected by injuries on offense, Chaump is hoping for a healthier team come Sept. 11, when Navy opens the season at Virginia. That includes quarterback Jim Kubiak, a junior who underwent surgery after separating a shoulder against the Cavaliers in last year's opener and missed the rest of the season. "He's been limited to throwing short, because we've been bringing him along slowly," Chaump said. "He has shown remarkable recovery powers. If we can keep Jim Kubiak healthy, we finally can get into the passing offense I'd like to feature at Navy."

With Kubiak available on a limited basis, backup quarterbacks Eddie Buckles and Tony Solliday have had opportunities to get experience. Kubiak had taken most of the practice snaps last season, leaving Navy with raw quarterbacks after he was injured.

"We can't go into this year thinking we have to adapt to a new offense in the middle of the season," said Chaump, who was forced to go to an option attack when his top two quarterbacks were injured. "We've been giving [Buckles and Solliday] a lot of work."

Navy's offense, which lost just one player, also has been without tight end Kevin Hickman, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, the entire spring. With flanker Jim Screen (pulled hamstring) and receiver Mike Jefferson (who's on the track team) missing most of the workouts, the practices have been spent without a few key performers.

"All this does is give us a chance to get our young players ready," Chaump said.

Chaump said he has been pleased with the running of fullback Brad Stramanak, who missed all of last season after reconstructive surgery on his right knee last spring. In 1991, during his sophomore season, Stramanak rushed for a team-leading five touchdowns.

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